Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible
BY RUTH GLEDHILL, RELIGION CORRESPONDENT
THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.
The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.
“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.
The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.
Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.
But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.
The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system. Only a century ago, Pope Pius X condemned Modernist Catholic scholars who adapted historical-critical methods of analysing ancient literature to the Bible.
In the document, the bishops acknowledge their debt to biblical scholars. They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.
They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.
The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”
They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.
“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”
Of the notorious anti-Jewish curse in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be on us and on our children”, a passage used to justify centuries of anti-Semitism, the bishops say these and other words must never be used again as a pretext to treat Jewish people with contempt. Describing this passage as an example of dramatic exaggeration, the bishops say they have had “tragic consequences” in encouraging hatred and persecution. “The attitudes and language of first-century quarrels between Jews and Jewish Christians should never again be emulated in relations between Jews and Christians.”
As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.
Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.
The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
In their foreword to the teaching document, the two most senior Catholics of the land, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh, explain its context.
They say people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true.
The new teaching has been issued as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council document explaining the place of Scripture in revelation. In the past 40 years, Catholics have learnt more than ever before to cherish the Bible. “We have rediscovered the Bible as a precious treasure, both ancient and ever new.”
A Christian charity is sending a film about the Christmas story to every primary school in Britain after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph had named their baby after a swear word. The Breakout Trust raised £200,000 to make the 30-minute animated film, It’s a Boy. Steve Legg, head of the charity, said: “There are over 12 million children in the UK and only 756,000 of them go to church regularly.
That leaves a staggering number who are probably not receiving basic Christian teaching.”
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Genesis ii, 21-22
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man
Genesis iii, 16
God said to the woman [after she was beguiled by the serpent]: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
Matthew xxvii, 25
The words of the crowd: “His blood be on us and on our children.”
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”
Exodus iii, 14
God reveals himself to Moses as: “I am who I am.”
“I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
The Ten Commandments
The Sermon on the Mount
Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ
The Virgin Birth
Proof of bodily resurrection
How can Exodus 20:11 be true and Genesis not true? This teaching document is heresy! These Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are heretics! (I am in no way bashing or criticizing the Catholic church/faith as a whole just these fanatics)
I concur with your point.
It would be easy for some to paint with a broad brush and say ALL Catholics believe this. I hope that the discussion can stay focused on this article and not turn into an attack on all Catholics.
Wouldn't they be the OPPOSITE of fanatics? Fanatics drive planes into buildings or blow up abortion clinics. These guys seem to have pretty moderate views.
waiting for Twire and Jus to respond to this
Believe it or not, I agree with them to a certain extent.
I have long argued that you could distill the fundamentals of salvation down to a couple of pages. You may not understand the fullness of the gospel message without all of the scripture. Nor may you understand modern day prophecy through things like the correlations between the books of Daniel and Revelation.
But, Jesus didn't tell the thief on the cross "Get a graduate degree in scriptual studies, and you will be with me today in paradise."
John 3:16 is pretty simple.
If a person is going to reject the gift of salvation solely on the basis that you cannot balance the entirety of scripture with the entirety of science, then I can understand the reasoning behind this document.
Revelations is it's own book. The Bible is books, plural. There are missing books mentioned by name in the Bible. It has came down to us thruogh mans hands, there are errors. Not major ones but errors. The death of Judas is told two ways for example. The gospel of John last chapter last verse says if all Jesus did was written the books would fill the world.
We Mormons have a few more books and its no where close to filling the world. Compare things against what the books say. When you compare one book to others(in your Bible) you can get a good feel for yourself if something doesn't match perfectly. Usually there are other verses on a subect so you can go to them and get clarification. A few errors made by man in translation or over time doesn't negate the whole.
Indeed he did not. Rather it says come to Him with the innocence of a child. It's all about interpretation and like Paul says "you're trying to eat solid food when you're still on the milk"
Drink your milk kids!
Not going to judge the cardinal based on a secular media report that managed to get the century wrong with respect to Galileo. He didn't live in the 17th century.
Also noted that there weren't many verbatim quotes of the supposedly bomb shell document but paraphrasing on the behalf of the reporter....
But at the end of the day, I'm willing to entertain the conclusion that bishops and a cardinal are just plain too stupid to know what they're talking about when it comes to theology. There's a reason why we have a Pope, rather than autonomous national churches each coming up with their own theories on faith and moral issues.
I certainly understand the sentiment you express here. I seriously doubt that the average church member knows where his own church stands on most issues. I've met people that were gleefully involved in things their own churches forbade - and had NO CLUE what hypocrites they were, out of sheer ignorance.
If someone rejects the gift of salvation, their argument is merely an excuse. I really do believe it is that simple. Changing YOUR views to match THEIR views will NOT lead to more converts. Period.
(But I do see the point you're driving at WRT not needing a theology degree to be saved!)
Out of respect for individual members of the RCC, I won't post my exact thoughts on those who issued the statements discussed in the article Brohawk quoted.
(use your imagaination.....)
actually he did
17th century is the 1600's....
Hmmm.... veddy veddy intereting....
Uh oh! I can almost hear the gears working in Dram's head from accross the internet. Watch out!
Ah...thank God for Martin Luther and the Reformation!
A priesthood of ALL believers, not just the ones in fancy robes!
"a priesthood of ALL believers, not just the ones in fancy robes."
Um, nowhere does the Catholic Church teach that only those in "fancy robes" are priests. There is an order of ministerial priests, but also an order of priests that all the baptised are members of.
All baptised believers perform priestly functions (when you pray for someone, when you invoke God's blessing on someone...); it's in the Catechism of the Catholic Church... in order for us to be collectively called a "royal priesthood" a priestly people, and for Jesus to be call High Priest, there has to be LOGICALLY, orders of priests.
But again, distinctions, distinctions, definitions, definitions... straw man arguments and false dicotomies (either/or vs both/and) cloud so much of our discussions...
Re: Galileo. Ya got me... I stand corrected. 17th = 1600s.
But the issue at the time wasn't the Church dogmatically claiming that the Old Testament made scientific claims at all! The Church per se wasn't involved in the whole debate; it only became an issue when Galileo demanded the Church to side on his behalf against his Aristotelian opponents.
The Pope didn't want to get involved....whereas both sides wanted the Church to come down on their side. It only got ugly when both Galileo and the Aristotelians started making THEOLOGICAL statements that ventured out of the scientifica arena and started dealing with faith.
To wit: the interpetation of the Psalm "the earth is fixed and shall not be moved" and the story about the sun going back several steps.... supposedly proving that the Earth is fixed and doesn't spin on its axis or that the sun orbits the earth...
Galileo's books DIDN'T PROVE HIS ASSERTIONS EITHER. It wasn't until a century or more that someone else came up with a proof for the earth's rotation (Pendulum experiment) and the earth orbiting the Sun (Stellar Parallax).
The Church got grilled 100 years after the fact by Englishmen needing propaganda in their war against Spain and by early Americans desperately needing to claim the Church is anti-Science (which is pretty funny considering that the Church always had observatories, founded the universities, etc.)
Galileo also didn't believe in elliptical orbits so he wasn't totally right either.
In any event the black legend took on it's own life apart from the facts of the matter as perception is reality for some people.
So because your culture/language doesn't allow for distinctions between honoring, reverencing, and worshipping.... your PERCEPTION that Catholics honor a person, place or thing = reality of idolatry...even though we merely honor a person, place or thing and only worship God.
Because you've been taught that the Church is anti-science and Galileo's case is thrown up as incontrovertible proof (though details are never, ever, given...) the perception leads you to conclude that a Pope saying no to Invitro Fertilization or Contraception is just another back-ward Roman prejudice against the morally neutral and fantastic advances of 'modern' science, and they want us to return to the dark ages. Few non-Catholics realize that contraception was known to the Romans and the Didache (and even the pagan oath of Hippocrates) were against it on moral grounds.
As for the Church claiming the bible to be 'untrue' - it's a misleading title because "Church re-states the obvious that certain passages in the Bible are not literal" just doesn't have the same ring to it and wouldn't jin up as much anti-Catholic fervor as a Maria-monk like bomb shell "Church suddenly thinks Bible is untrue" header.
You can find people who claim to be Catholics - be they priests, 'theologians', or even bishops say the silliest things. Believe me, we don't need Protestants attacking us... we're quite big enough and divided enough to hamstring ourselves all by ourselves. Just ask John Kerry and Rick Santorum (both Catholics, coming down on entirely different sides of moral issues).
This is another reason why a Pope, someone who can 'strengthen the brethren's faith' and thus be a support of doctrinal unity, is needed. Without shepherds working for the chief shepherd there is no way to unite disparate peoples.
But context, context...full text, full text. distinctions, distinctions, defining one's terms and sorting out what is perception from what is reality.... this is needed every time something as hot-buttony as faith is brought up.
And it works both ways. When I made sweeping generalizations, I'm grateful for Arowner etc. to call me on them. It's appropriate to make distinctions among "protestants" or "non-Catholic Christians" so I try. It would be refreshing for others to seek such distinctions on our behalf now and again too.
There are NOT two stories of Judas if by "two stories" you mean two DIFFERENT stories.
None of the Gospels claims to be an EXHAUSTIVE account of the life and times of Jesus and the Apostles. They are merely ACCURATE, meaning that they accurately describe what happened.
I can say that a man comitted suicide, or I can say that he hung himself from a tree, or I can say that he hung himself and his body eventually snapped the rope and fell to the ground and burst open. Which is accurate?
All are. But some accounts are more detailed than others.
The Gospels do not compete with each other, but are complimentary. To use something like that as an illustration of "error" is to demonstrate a lack of understanding scripture in the first place.
I agree with this part. I think that we sometimes apply our own perview of history to a translation from ancient text to that which is to a degree, untranslatable. I'm not talking about linquistics, I'm talking about the the expression of God's love and interaction with humanity thru the ages. The text is only a shadow of the events, a way for us to understand.
I think this is a very, slippery slope. It almost implies that scripture in and of itself is somehow poorly suited to 'modern' times. That's hogwash. Scripture is timeless and speaks for itself pretty well most of the time.
No joke. Most of you have seen the thread 'Extremists attack my church.
I would say that this is one of the great changes in Catholicism in my lifetime. And likely one of the things that most x-Catholics-turned-fundamentalists overlook.